Written by:Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD

Published On: September 22, 2023

Medically reviewed by: Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW

Reviewed On: September 28, 2023

Updated On: September 28, 2023


Social anxiety is also known as social phobia. It’s a common anxiety disorder characterized by excessive self-consciousness and an intense fear of being criticized in everyday social situations.

Medications for social anxiety have become increasingly popular to help people cope with this debilitating mental health condition. It’s important to understand the treatment options available — both through medication and evidence-based therapies — so you can make informed decisions about your mental health journey as you learn to manage symptoms.

While there is no cure, the good news is that it is possible to learn how to overcome social anxiety using different coping skills and techniques, potentially combined with medication. Read on to learn more about social anxiety disorder medication.

Types of Medications Used to Treat Social Anxiety

Several classes of FDA-approved and off-label medications have been found effective for treating social anxiety, including:

  • SSRIs
  • SNRIs
  • Beta-blockers
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Buspirone

“Certain medications have FDA approval for certain diagnoses. Psychiatrists have to combine different medications for a particular individual to clear up anxiety symptoms. For various anxiety disorders, FDA has approved medications Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and Buspar are a few options.”

Psychiatrist, MD, DFAPA Muhammad Munir

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant commonly prescribed as a social anxiety disorder medication. SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, effectively regulating mood.

Commonly prescribed SSRIs for social anxiety

Popular SSRIs that have been approved for use by the FDA to treat severe social anxiety are sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR).

Potential side effects of SSRIs for social anxiety

Some known side effects of SSRIs include:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Sexual dysfunction

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another type of medication for social anxiety. SNRIs increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, helping improve mood stability and decrease anxiety.

Commonly prescribed SNRIs for social anxiety

The FDA has approved SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor XR) for social anxiety treatment.

Potential side effects of SNRIs for social anxiety

Some known side effects of SNRIs include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure


Beta-blockers are oftentimes used as meds for social anxiety because they can help reduce physical symptoms, like sweating and trembling, by blocking the effects of adrenaline.

Commonly prescribed beta-blockers for social anxiety

Though it’s not effective in treating all common phobias, propranolol can be prescribed off-label for social anxiety.

Potential side effects of beta-blockers for social anxiety

Common potential side effects of beta-blockers can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Slow heartbeat


Benzodiazepines are another off-label, fast-acting medication that can help relieve anxiety symptoms quickly. It’s important to note that they can be habit-forming though, so they’re usually only prescribed for short-term use.

Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for social anxiety

Clonazepam is the most widely studied “benzo” for social anxiety.

Potential side effects of benzodiazepines for social anxiety

Side effects of benzodiazepines to be aware of, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dependency risk


Buspirone is a non-addictive medication that can help reduce anxiety without causing drowsiness or sedation. Although research has mixed findings regarding the efficacy of buspirone when used off-label for social anxiety, some studies found it can be effective for some people.

Potential side effects of buspirone for social anxiety

Some commonly known side effects of buspirone include:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Chest pain

The type of medication you’re prescribed may depend on the type of social anxiety you experience, along with any other symptoms uncovered in your psych evaluation.

“Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Not all the anxieties are the same. The art and science of medicine is to resolve the symptoms. Sometimes a combination of medications is needed to clear all the anxiety symptoms.”

Psychiatrist, MD, DFAPA Muhammad Munir

Is it Worth Taking Medication for Social Anxiety?

Weighing the pros and cons of using meds for social anxiety is an important consideration. The National Institute of Mental Health states that medication can be an effective part of a treatment plan for social anxiety disorder, especially when medication is combined with therapy and other strategies like mindfulness and deep breathing techniques.

Like any treatment plan, you should consult your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your condition and symptoms.

Combining medication with therapy for social anxiety

Don’t let social anxiety stop you from living your life — a combination of medication and therapy for social anxiety can help manage symptoms and enhance your overall well-being.

“Extensive research and clinical work have proven that medicine and therapy are the best treatment recommendations for anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety. Working with your therapist, you will work on psychological symptoms, learning cognitive skills, behavior modification, and adapting to the stressful, challenging, anxiety-provoking situations while medication works to address the physiological symptoms of anxiety disorders.”

Psychiatrist, MD, DFAPA Muhammad Munir

Online therapy provides a convenient and accessible way to get treatment for symptoms of social anxiety.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works to recognize and modify unhealthy and unhelpful mental habits associated with severe social anxiety. Learn more about the power of CBT for social anxiety.
  • Exposure therapy for social anxiety gradually desensitizes you to your fears while building confidence in managing anxiety during a social situation.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies teach meditation or deep breathing exercises to help calm the mind and body during heightened stress or fear.

When used together, medication and therapy can lead to more significant improvements than using either treatment alone.

How to Get Social Anxiety Medication

If you’re looking for the best medication for social anxiety, help is available. You can take these steps to determine if medication is the most effective treatment option for you:

  1. Consult a professional: Talk to a mental health professional or your primary care doctor to see if social anxiety medication is right for you.
  2. Consider your options: Your healthcare provider will evaluate your medical history, other medications you already take, and your symptoms before prescribing anything.
  3. Take as directed: Follow a mental health professional’s instructions and monitor any side effects or changes in symptoms.
  4. Stay in touch: Schedule follow-up appointments to discuss progress and concerns, and adjust dosages if necessary.
  5. Combine with therapy: As mentioned, for best results, consider combining medication with therapy. Talkspace offers online access to licensed therapists who can provide personalized support to help you get the most out of your treatment plan so you can learn to live with social anxiety.

Find Personalized Social Anxiety Treatment

When you connect with a Talkspace therapist, you’ll work together to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals in managing social anxiety disorder. Remember that treatment plans with the most effective outcome generally include a combination of medications for social anxiety plus therapy. Get started with Talkspace today to learn to overcome your social anxiety.

See References

Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD

Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA, has over 20 years of clinical experience specializing in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic disorder, and ADHD. Dr. Munir believes in “back to basics” the therapeutic alliance between the physician and patients. The hallmark of this alliance is the emphatic process whereby the patient is not only enabled, but educated and encouraged, to take an active role in their psychiatric care and wellbeing.

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